Friday, June 09, 2006

Michael Ciamarra of The Alabama Policy Institute Shills (and Steals!) on Lawsuit Abuse

A Michael Ciamarra, the/a Vice President of The Alabama Policy Institute, drops “America's lead in lawsuits unchallenged” in my local weekly, The Randolph Leader. To have the API shilling their foolishness here, and in likely in many other papers (He made The Montgomery Advertiser) across Alabama, really frustrates me. The API and their Big Mule backers are hardly above lying yet they excel at twisting and spinning to support their shilling.

However, the most remarkable thing is that this tool of the right lifted the majority of this mess straight from Newt Gingrich. Have you ever heard of plagiarism/attribution … or Google? I expect my high school kids were smart enough to know better than straight stealing! Apparently the Right’s Mighty Wurlitzer troops need some training. From Box Turtle Ben Domenech to the replacement for Claude “The Fraud” Allen, namely Karl Zinsmeister of The American Enterprise Institute, you guys are getting sloppy! His other “source” in the US Chamber of Commerce and we know, or at least should know (I’m sorry I’m implying that I’m smarter than my sisters and/or their broods and/or others in my little village again!), how unbiased they are, especially in the 2004 election. They apparently even started this “Conservative Message Machine” way back in the early 1970s.

Stepping back in time a bit myself, likely in the early 1970s as well, I’m nearly certain that I heard my mother, hardly a political person from what I recall, once say, “Liars figure and figures lie.” Maybe she’d be pleased that I’ve referenced what I learned from her. Possibly my Dad might appreciate the political ideals I value and try to practice. I don’t expect either would be thrilled with all that I think and do and yet in carrying out my life I have usually always considered my roots and current branches. Caring for these lines and their legacies ought to be known is a given. Yet as always, I am prepared to stand alone in doing what I think is best for my world. How I attempt to show my patriotism and love for my neighbors might not be what others would choose to do, yet I benefit from the process. No profit in it, and perhaps even some negative consequences that I’ll handle as an individual surely, yet it does seem at least a little noble. Knowing that my son will be living in the world to come is certain as well. Probably quixotic but this seems like a relatively harmless way to try to move attitudes and engage with important issues. But of course the family way to judge me is that I’m just “showing off” or engaging in a pathetic attempt to prove “I am somebody!”, to which I’ll just add my own “Good grief!”

I’ve previously posted on Gary Palmer and his API. First I tackled his use of Paleos to keep the butter on the Big Mules bread. Then I bounced another’s work against Gary Palmer complaining on lack of educational progress despite the fact that his team has been winning on the “policy” making the argument that conservatism might have responsibilities for both of their concerns.

For the bottom line folks, this API is part of a “deep lobbying” tactic the Big Mules use to influence policy through pseudo “think tanks” and semi legitimate research and policy shops. Many are blessed as 501(c)(3) non-profits so the business community and the winners get to deduct their donations and then keep more of the money these organizations help them “earn” and “retain” and … Nice investment and certainly more profitable for the worker bees doing “service” at these entities than the many non-profits of the Progressive community. ALEC Watch is a good place to start in understanding how big business is not just involved at the national level.

I had wanted to respond to API President Gary Palmer for his “policy” on taxation that was contrary to University of Alabama Law Professor Susan Pace Hamill’s consistent application of her understanding of Christianity and poverty. This professor (with theological and legal papers hanging on her wall) has written and spoken often over these last few years on Alabama’s regressive tax structures. Recently she ventured into the pandering abortion legislation being considered in this session up on Goat Hill. Gary Palmer’s response was “Class Envy” that managed to get in plugs for school vouchers and family values and faith based initiatives and displaying the ten commandments and school prayer and ”liberal” bashing and .... Jim Wooten might have another member on the Olympic Synchronized Shilling Team if that sport ever comes to pass. Our Professor has long offered her own ideas on how Alabama’s poverty could be remedied from a position of I’d hope influence and legitimacy.
Gary Palmer’s authority is Marvin Olasky. Good work when you can get it Doc! Infiltrating academia is certainly one of the toughest parts of this machine’s work but thank goodness for starving schools so that money talks and bullshit walks... as in the door so they can then work under even more legitimacy. Getting them on the payroll of the state is brilliant, as is the deductibility and good press for funding certain chairs and department. Exhibit A might be Jay Greene. Even Douglas Feith, described by Bu$hCo loyalist General Tommy Franks (ret.) as “the stupidest f’ing guy on the planet”, has landed a plum job at Georgetown. Jesus General obtained his syllabus. Neo-Con Omarta? They’ll rehabilitate him at Georgetown at worst plus he can’t talk too much in the ivory tower can he?

As for another of Mr. Palmer’s authorities, the late William Temple was actually very much an advocate of the social welfare system that England has in place now. Maybe you need to think a little more on what Dr. Temple was saying rather than explaining it for us? Reading a goodly portion of his work seems like a good start. Lots of this partial reading going around these days!

Returning to the “lawsuit abuse” fantasy the business community rolls out every do often, I’ll give you portions of what Mr. Ciamarri wrote, with my comments appearing parenthetically and in bold (Which I’m sure is because I’m being “flamboyant”!) the following:

In 2004, 2.2 percent of America's gross domestic product was made up of lawsuit costs. That's $260 billion dollars in lawsuits - $860 for every man, woman, and child in the country. (“Lawsuit costs?” Doesn’t that count judgments awarded in court, by arbitration, by settlement, by … And wouldn’t that also include business claims made by companies and entrepreneurs? What about collections? My understanding, and I’ve had trouble finding authority for my belief, is that a large portion of the lawsuits filed in this nation are over business disputes. Corporations can pay their top level folks astronomical salaries and benefits compared to the worker bees yet the “trial lawyers” are surely the bad guys. Also, insurance companies failing to pay legitimate claims would be included wouldn’t they? And then there are the medical malpractice cases, just those that actually are discovered of course? Almost 200,000 Americans die while still actually in the hospital every year from medical errors according to this study. You’d include greedy pharmaceutical companies that gamed the research stats to put an unsafe product on the market wouldn’t you? I also wonder is whether the Bu$hCo White House gave Newt the figures you passed off as your own ideas? I also really enjoyed Stephanie Mencimer work in Washington Monthly entitled “False Alarm : How the media helps the insurance industry and the GOP promote the myth of America's "lawsuit crisis.")

It gets worse. On average, lawsuit costs have grown two to three percent faster than the American economy since 1950. From 2001 to 2004, the increase in lawsuit costs was more than double the rate of America's economic growth. That means more and more of our productivity is eaten up by lawsuits every year. (Part of that could be due to the fine job Bu$hCo has done with the economy yet your figures are apparently lacking in substance. Again, what are “lawsuit costs”? Is this the costs of filing, paying for depositions, travel, attorney fees, etc.? Indeed, post war America did see some jumps in “lawsuit costs” as folks were back to making a decent living and buying often unsafe cars and living large and … yet these last few years have seen a drop in filings. Notice the attribution to the following work by Ms. Mencimer linked to above (and again here) the fact that I’m placing her thoughts in quotes as follows: “According to the National Center for State Courts, a research group funded by state courts, personal injury and other tort filings, when controlled for population growth, have declined nationally by 8 percent since 1975, and have been falling steadily in real numbers since 1996. The numbers are even more dramatic in places with rapid population growth, like Texas, where the rate of tort filings fell 37 percent between 1990 and 2000. Even in liberal California, the rate of filings has plummeted 45 percent over the past decade.”)

America's lawsuit culture drives businesses overseas, scares away investment in America, and puts doctors out of business. We need a change of direction that protects the individual but doesn't cripple America's economy. (“Lawsuit culture” is to blame? I thought businesses outsourced for cheap labor and lack of regulation. Investment in American seems OK in that China and some others foreign nations are holding much of our increasing debt due to the tax cut policies of Bu$hCo. “(P)uts doctors out of business.” is part of the message and not reality as we know insurance companies don’t have anything to do with the premiums continuing to rise despite “reforms”. At least the pharmaceutical companies are being served with the drafting of the Medicare bill. As an aside perhaps, yet related to how the Big Mules try to deliver their messages, I can recall a tool from the AVALA being invited to a local civic club by one of the local car dealers several years ago. He spoke of employers being terrified of workers suing them if they get hurt and then collecting punitive damages from juries. I asked him to repeat as I thought I’d misunderstood but got the same lies. I then asked him why he was telling this lie when he surely knew workers compensation laws applied and that punitives much less jury trials were not part of the process. Realizing he was caught I guess, the man launched into an attack on me as a apparently a trial lawyer. I again asked how that changed the lies he’d just told. I could never get him to explain his lies. But then again I was probably just embarrassing my family, even though many of them butter their bread in the legal system. If not that I was just “showing off”. I couldn’t get an answer from the car dealer that brought him in to speak either. Imagine! However, since this car dealer regularly darkens the door to First Baptist Church in Roanoke often we all know who the superior human being is don’t we?)

Here's one idea. Personal injury lawyers should be held responsible for filing junk lawsuits. If a judge finds a case to be frivolous, the lawyer that filed the case should be forced to pay for court costs. This will help focus our courts on only the most worthy cases and free the American economy from the constant threat of lawsuits. (There’s Rule 11 in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure but certainly The Code of Alabama, 1975, as amended, Section 12-19-270, et seq, “The Alabama Litigation Act” applies. This is essentially what you want isn’t it? Why suggest this is not already part of the law? And “court costs” are hardly all that is involved in that attorney fees, costs, and expenses are all recoverable. Plus there are ethical standard in play. And why are “personal injury lawyers” singled out? I’m sorry, as I forgot that Newt singled them out and that you just copied and pasted. Again, I’m thinking the American economy needs freeing from plenty more than frivolous lawsuits!)

According to a 2006 U.S. Chamber of Commerce study, Alabama ranks 47th in the nation when it comes to tort reliability and a predictable civil justice system. It's time to create a 21st century system of civil justice that provides faster solutions and reduces the negative effects on our economy and still guarantees every American the right to justice. (You mean arbitration don’t you, even though I’ll admit your link seems to give the good, bad, and ugly on that process? That Alabama appellate courts are truly conservative isn’t enough? Bu$h 41 and 43 plus Reagan appointees on the Federal level must not satisfy either? Lifetime appointments to the federal courts yet you are worried about what exactly? Give me the proposal please and I’ll consider. Maybe you can lift from another darling of the conservative movement when they come up with something that actually works better?)

I’m sure Ciamarri’s family is so proud their boy made the papers, especially since he's part of the values that really count. Maybe he'll even work in a little scripture next time. Legitimate, and likely well-paid, job helping create policy to serve his world and all makes it surely seem swell I bet. Yet with a little digging and thinking I’ve perhaps shown them, and most importantly neutral readers, that there is a good bit more going on here. Plagiarism is just the tip of this iceberg! Carefully considering, which surely involves reading and thinking, seems like a prerequisite to me for understanding much of anything. In our “talking points” world perhaps this is even more so. Faith in what you are told seems to work for some yet it is a dangerous place I’ll argue. To have Ciamarri’s (or Newt’s?) arguments accepted without challenge seems plenty dangerous.

I’ll continue to close with something that I mean, namely “Peace … or War!”

UPDATE - June 12, 2006 - Perhaps does encourage "collaboration" by taking suggested language and shilling it by "activists". Amazing message machine so a tip of the tam to merely how well the Right does this work. Still, I'd think that Mr. Ciamarri, a VP with API, ought to be able to develop his own langauge. I'll give him that if he had permission, implied or implicit, to use then it "aint stealing". I will not yet change the title of my post but perhaps might in the future if I've goofed up. I've actually emailed and asked about this issue. I have not been contacted by Mr. Ciamarri or API yet want to get this right. Either as Newt's ideas or that of the API, I'd offer the opinion is wrong or at least mostly wrong. A pox on both your houses!

As an aside, Newt is often so wrong when he is wrong that it is hard for me to work with his good ideas. Plus, he often comes across as arrogant and hypocritical and ... I'd trade him for any of the Bu$hCo crowd and given the field in 2008 he is as good as any Republican so far that is flirting with running. At least Newt has a brain and after eight years of Bu$hCo we need as much of that as we can get! However, we surely can't afford much more conservatism even if handled rationally as the "philosophy" is wrongly reasoned and dreadfully implemented in today's form.

The bottom line is I don't want to assign "poor form" if in fact borrowing these ideas was allowed and certainly not if encouraged. Peace ... or War!